His action made Alex angry and confused. "He's fighting the battle with your weapons!" she cried when Elizabeth and she were alone that night. "It is not at all the way the game is supposed to be played. He was supposed to feel jealous and come to heel! Perhaps," she said soothingly, "he was jealous, and he wanted to make you jealous."
Elizabeth smiled sadly and shook her head. "Ian once told me he's always been able to think like his opponent. He was showing me that he knew exactly what I was doing with Sheffield, and' telling me not to bother trying it again. He really does want to drive me away, you see. He's not merely trying to punish me or to make me suffer a little before he takes me back."
"Do you truly think he wants to drive you away forever?" Alexandra asked miserably, sitting down on the sofa beside Elizabeth and putting her arm around her shoulders.
"I know he does," Elizabeth said. "Then what will you do next?"
"Whatever I have to do-anything I can think of. So long as he knows there's a possibility he'll see me wherever he goes, he can't put me entirely out of his mind. I still have a chance to win."
In that Elizabeth was proved mistaken. One month after Ian's acquittal Bentner tapped on the door to the salon where Elizabeth was sitting with Alexandra. "There is a man-a Mr. Larimore," he said, recognizing the name of Ian's solicitor. "He says he has papers he must hand to you personally."
Elizabeth went pale. "Did he say what sort of papers they were?"
"He refused until I told him I wouldn't interrupt you without being able to tell you why I must."
"What sort of papers are they?" Elizabeth asked, but, God help her, she already knew.
Bentner's eyes slid away, his face harsh with sorrow. "He said they are documents pertaining to a petition for divorce."
The world reeled as Elizabeth tried to stand. "I really think I could hate that man," Alexandra cried. wrapping her friend in a supportive hug, her voice choked with sorrow. "Even Jordan is becoming angry at him for letting this breach between you continue."
Elizabeth scarcely knew she was being consoled; the pain was so great it was actually numbing. Turning out of Alexandra's embrace, she looked at Bentner, knowing that if she accepted the papers there'd be no more delaying tactics she could use, no more hope, but the anguished uncertainty would end. That at least would give her a blessed respite from a terrible, draining torment. Gathering all her courage for one last herculean battle, Elizabeth spoke, slowly at first. "Tell Mr. Larimore that while you were having your dinner, I left the house. Tell him you checked with my maid, and that she said I planned to go to a play with"-she glanced at Alexandra for permission, and her friend nodded emphatically-"with the Duchess of Hawthorne tonight. Invent any schedule you want for me this afternoon and tomorrow-but give him details, Bentner-details that explain why I'm not here."
Another butler, who was not addicted to mysteries, might not have caught on so easily, but Bentner began to nod and grin. "You want to keep him looking elsewhere so you'll have time to pack and get away without his guessing you're leaving."
"Exactly," Elizabeth said with a grateful smile. "And after that," she added as he turned to do as bidden, "send a message to Mr. Thomas Tyson-the man from the Times who's been pleading for an interview. Tell him I will give him five minutes if he can be here this evening."
"Where will you go?" Alex asked. "If I tell you, Alex, you must swear not to tell Ian." "Of course I won't."
"Nor your husband. He's Ian's friend. It would be wrong to put him in the middle."
Alex nodded. "Jordan will understand that I've given my word and cannot reve3i what I know, even to him."
"I'm going," Elizabeth confided quietly, "to the last place on earth Ian will think to look for me now-and the first place he'll go when he really believes he needs to find me, or find peace because he can't. I'm going to the cottage in Scotland. "
"You should not have to do that!" Alex exclaimed loyally. "If he weren't so heartless, so unjust-"
"Before you say all that," Elizabeth said gently, "ask yourself how you would feel if Jordan made it look to all the world that you were a murderess, and then he breezed into the House of Lords in the nick of time, after putting you through humiliation and heartbreak, and made it all seem like one big joke." Alex didn't reply, but some of the anger drained from her face; more as Elizabeth continued wisely, "Ask yourself how you would feel when you found out that from the day he married you he believed there was a chance you really were a murderess-and how you would feel when you remembered the nights you spent together during that time. And when you've done all that, remember that in all the time I've known Ian, all he's ever done is to try in every way to make me happy."
"I-" Alex began, and then her shoulders drooped. "When you put it that way, it does give it a different perspective. I don't see how you can be so fair and objective when I cannot."
"Ian," Elizabeth teased sadly, "taught me that the quickest and best way to defeat an opponent is to first see things from his viewpoint." She sobered then. "Do you know what a post boy asked me yesterday when he realized who I was?"
When Alex shook her head, Elizabeth said guiltily, "He asked me if I was still afraid of my husband. They haven't all forgotten about it, you know. Many will never believe he's completely innocent. I made a terrible and lasting mess of things, you see."
Biting her lip to hold back her tears, Alex said, "If he hasn't gone to Scotland to get you by the time our baby comes in January, will you come to us at Hawthorne? I can't bear the thought of you spending all winter alone up there."
* * *
Leaning back in his chair, Ian listened to Larimore's irate summation of the wild and fruitless chase he'd been sent on for two days by Lady Thornton and her butler: "And after all that, " Larimore flung out in high dudgeon, "I returned to the house on Promenade Street to demand the butler allow me past the stoop, only to have the man-"
"Slam the door in your face?" Ian suggested dispassionately.
"No, my lord, he invited me in," Larimore bit out. "He invited me to search the house to my complete satisfaction. She's left London, " Larimore finished, avoiding his employer's narrowed gaze.
"She'll go to Havenhurst, " Ian said decisively, and he gave Larimore directions to find the small estate.